Facial hair and skincare

Do’s and don’ts for ingrown hairs, beard acne, waxing, and more.

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Skin cream on young male with facial hair
We’re here to tell you what we know, but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider about your specific health concerns.

Skincare can be tricky on its own, but when you’re dealing with facial hair, too, the struggle is real. Whether you’re shaving a beard, growing and grooming a beard, or simply waxing your upper-lip peach fuzz, we’re here to help. We’ll cover all the do’s and don’ts of hair removal, as well as how to deal with ingrowns, beard acne, and more.

Important! Read this first if you’re using a medicated topical treatment

If you’re considering a method of hair removal other than shaving, tweezing, or threading, talk to your medical provider first if you’re using a prescription topical treatment such as your Curology cream. Prescription topical treatments such as tretinoin may make your skin more sensitive than usual to certain methods of hair removal, like lasers and waxing. Your medical provider can let you know if you should hold off on using your topical medication before and after hair removal. If you’re having an in-office procedure done (such as laser hair removal) let the provider who is performing the procedure know that you are using a prescription topical. If you use Curology, check in with your Curology provider with any questions about the ingredients in your custom cream.

Ingrowns vs. PFB vs. acne

Ingrown Hairs

There are a few ways ingrown hairs (or “razor bumps”) can happen: hairs growing back after shaving (or waxing, plucking, etc.) can get stuck under the skin, for one reason or another. Or sometimes, growing hairs emerge from the skin but curl over and burrow down into the adjacent skin. The body sees the hair as a foreign intruder and tries to attack it, which is why ingrowns can result in redness, bumps, swelling, and pain/irritation.

How to remove ingrown hairs before shaving 

Start by putting a warm compress over the area to soften the skin.The goal here is to avoid breaking the skin too much. Take a pair of  pointed or splinter tweezers and sterilize them with an alcohol wipe. In a pinch, you can also use a household sewing needle. You’ll need bright enough light—and ideally, a magnifying mirror—so you can see what you’re doing. If you can see the ingrown hair beneath the skin,poke the needle just underneath the surface to lift out the ingrown hair. 

PFB (PseudoFolliculitis Barbae)According to the Skin of Color Society, “Pseudofolliculitis barbae (PFB) is a chronic inflammatory condition of the skin caused by shaving or plucking hairs and sometimes genetic factors”. Basically, it’s an ingrown hair accompanied by “revving up” of the scar tissue response which results in firm fibrous bumps. PFB is more common in those with thick, coiled, coarse, and curly hair and in those with melanin-rich skin (aka darker skin tones).

PFB isn’t the same as acne, but some of the treatments overlap. That being said, PFB is difficult to treat—sadly, there’s no “cure”, but there is hope! If you’re dealing with ingrown hairs and PFB, laser hair removal may be helpful. Ask your dermatologist if this is a good option for you.

How to apply acne cream if you have a beard

Applying skincare products like acne treatments may seem tricky if you have a beard, but here’s what to do. First, pump/squeeze the product onto your fingertips (not your palm), and dab it on your face (if you’ve got a full beard, do your best to get it onto your skin beneath/between the hairs). Then, gently rub in more product with two fingers on the face/neck where you tend to get breakouts. Aim for a thin layer. If you’re using Curology (or a different topical medication) know that, in general, people with beards tend to use a lot more of their medication and can run out earlier than patients without beards. 

Hair today, gone tomorrow: facial hair removal methods

Whatever your skin type or hair situation, there’s a facial hair reduction/removal method out there for you. Here’s a quick breakdown of the most popular kinds.

Waxing

Waxing removes hair at the root, so it takes longer to grow back than shaving. It’s a common misconception that waxing makes hair grow back finer—it just looks that way at first, compared to shaving, which blunts the hair off. (Some optical illusions aren’t as fun as others.)

Pros: You can DIY or have a pro do it for you; waxing can be used on any hair color.

Cons: Waxing can be painful! Possible side effects include redness, “rug-burn”, sensitivity, and possible hyperpigmentation (especially for those with melanin-rich skin). 

Disclaimer: Do not wax your face if you’re using tretinoin (a prescription retinoid). You might want to avoid excess heat (i.e. a sauna) or sweaty workouts for 24-48 hours after getting a wax—your hair just got ripped out by the roots, after all, so your skin will likely need some time to heal!

Sugaring

Sugaring works just like waxing but uses a melted sugar mixture instead of wax to pull the hair out from the root. You can DIY with the home kits sold in many stores (but it can be a bit messy).

Pros: Generally less painful and gentler on the skin than waxing.   

Cons: Can still be painful and irritating.

Disclaimer: You might want to avoid excess heat (i.e. a sauna) or sweaty workouts for 24-48 hours after sugaring—your hair just got ripped out by the roots, after all, so your skin will likely need some time to heal!

Threading 

Threading also removes hair from the root, by rotating a loop of thread across the skin. This method might not remove as many hairs at a time as waxing or sugaring, but some prefer it as a gentler method.

Pros: Fast and generally inexpensive; may be better for those with sensitive skin (as compared to other methods like waxing)

Cons: Can be a bit painful!

Tweezing 

One of the most straightforward DIY hair removal methods, tweezing is easy and free to do at home—but it’s definitely slower, and it’s easy to break hairs off without plucking them out from the roots.

Pros: Inexpensive and can be done at home; good control over how much hair you’re removing.

Cons: Takes a long time; can be painful; may result in ingrown hairs.

Shaving 

For many people with facial hair, a shaving razor is a go-to grooming essential. Shaving provides some physical exfoliation at the same time, for an added bonus. If you’ve got sensitive skin or are prone to ingrown hairs, however, here are some tips that may help.

Myths about shaving have been making the rounds for a long time. Contrary to popular belief, shaving doesn’t make hair grow back thicker than before! The texture, color, and growth rate of hair are not changed by shaving. In actuality, shaving creates blunt edges, which may make the hair appear thicker when it first grows back.

Pros: Fast and easy, generally not painful.

Cons: Results are extremely temporary; razor burn; risk of ingrown hairs. 

Shaving cream for acne-prone skin

Not all shaving creams are created equal—some have pore-clogging ingredients or may be irritating to sensitive skin. Here are some shaving cream products that pass CosDNA.com’s ingredient analysis.

Aftershave tips

Watch out for aftershave: many of them contain alcohol or other potentially drying or irritating ingredients. Here are some aftershave products that contain non-irritating, non-clogging, non-drying ingredients.

Dermaplaning

At-home dermaplaning is (carefully!) scraping the face using a sharp single blade with gentle strokes. This removes the dead skin cells and vellus (or peach fuzz hairs) on your face. It’s a popular beauty technique as well as a hair removal technique: it can temporarily make skin appear smoother by exfoliating the skin.

We don’t recommend dermaplaning to people who have active acne—it can be irritating and may make acne worse! 

Pros: 

  • Fast and easy, generally not painful. 

Cons: 

  • Results are extremely temporary, potential irritation from razor scraping the skin, and it can give the illusion of thicker hair growth because of the blunted ends (like shaving). 

Laser hair removal 

Simply put, LHR uses a laser to destroy hair follicles with heat. The pigment (melanin) in the hair absorbs light from the laser, the light energy is converted to heat, and the damage caused to the hair follicles stops or delays future hair growth. 

The contrast in color between the skin and the pigment in the hair allows the laser to pick out what to target, so lasers can have trouble targeting hair on darker skin types. For that reason, LHR typically works best for patients with light-colored skin and dark-colored hair (*although all skin types can be treated under the supervision of an experienced medical provider*). Recently, laser technology has become more inclusive of darker skin types, so if you’re after semi-permanent hair removal, don’t give up on your laser dreams! It’s important to note, though, that in most cases white, gray, or light blonde hair cannot be as easily treated with laser hair removal. 

Pros:

  • Hair typically grows back thinner/finer after each treatment.

  • Results are somewhat permanent, depending on factors such as hormonal changes, genetics, and whether or not you go back for maintenance treatments.

  • May be uncomfortable.

Cons: 

  • Full course of treatments can get expensive (although many say that the time and money saved long-term on waxing/shaving/etc. makes it a worthwhile investment!)

  • It takes multiple treatments to remove all the hair from an area, and maintenance treatments are typically needed to maintain the results. 

  • There are some risks with LHR (especially if done in inexperienced hands), from discoloration/hyperpigmentation to burns. Only have laser hair removal done under the supervision of a skilled medical provider. The AAD recommends that you choose a board-certified dermatologist to perform laser treatments.

Chemical hair removal

Depilatories (such as NairⓇ) are creams or lotions used to remove unwanted hair. These can be quite irritating and may even cause chemical burns, so if you want to try chemical hair removal, make sure to follow directions carefully! It uses strong ingredients such as calcium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide to dissolve the hair on the skin surface.

Pros: 

  • Inexpensive to DIY at home.

Cons:

  • Often irritating to the skin due to strong chemical ingredients.

  • Can result in hyperpigmentation (due to chemical burns).

Prescription creams (VaniqaⓇ)

After your hair has been removed by one of the means above, a prescription hair reduction cream (Vaniqa) will slow down the regrowth so that hair removal treatments can be spaced further apart. (If you’d like to consider this option, please reach out to your in-person dermatologist or in-person medical provider.)

Pros:

  • FDA approved.

Cons:

  • Expensive.

  • Hair returns to normal hair growth after you stop using the product.

 

Electrolysis 

For those whose hair can’t be removed with laser hair removal due to its color, electrolysis is an alternative hair removal solution. It’s also the only form of hair removal considered permanent by the FDA. In this medical treatment, an electrolysis device destroys the growth center of the hair with heat energy after a thin probe is placed in the follicle.

Pros:

  • Treats every color of hair.

  • Works on all hair colors, but is a great option for gray/white/light blonde hair (which cannot easily be treated with laser hair removal). 

  • In general, the procedure is well-tolerated.

Cons: 

  • Expensive and can be painful.

  • Risks (although uncommon) include pain, burns, hyperpigmentation, and possible scarring. 

  • Multiple treatments needed to completely remove hair. 

How Curology can help

If you’re looking for an effective treatment for skin concerns that you can do at home, we can help. Curology delivers a prescription strength face cream customized just for you and delivered to your door. For a free 30 day trial, sign up, fill out a quick questionnaire, and send some selfies to get a Curology medical provider’s approval–subject to consultation.

*For the free 30-day trial box, you just pay $4.95 shipping and handling. Subject to consultation.

• • •

1. Ingrown hair - Symptoms & causes. Mayo Clinic.

2. Ingrown hair - Diagnosis & treatment. Mayo Clinic.

3. Pseudofolliculitis barbae. Skin of Color Society.

4.  Shenenberger, D. W., & Utecht, L. M. Removal of unwanted facial hair. American family physician. (2002, November).

5.  Shenenberger, D. W., & Utecht, L. M. Removal of unwanted facial hair. Ibid. 

6.  7 Ways to Remove Unwanted Hair. American Academy of Dermatology. 

7.  Removing Hair Safely. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2010). 

8.  Olsen E. A. Methods of hair removal. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (1999, February 1).

9.  Olsen E. A. Methods of hair removal. Ibid.  

10.  Shenenberger, D. W., & Utecht, L. M. Removal of unwanted facial hair. Ibid.

11.  Removing Hair Safely. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2010).  

12.  Shenenberger, D. W., & Utecht, L. M. Removal of unwanted facial hair. Ibid.

13.  Laser Hair Removal: FAQs. American Academy of Dermatology. 

14.  7 Ways to Remove Unwanted Hair. American Academy of Dermatology. 

15.  Shenenberger, D. W., & Utecht, L. M. Removal of unwanted facial hair. Ibid.

16.  Laser Hair Removal: FAQs. American Academy of Dermatology.  

17.   Olsen E. A. Methods of hair removal. Ibid.   

18.   Shenenberger, D. W., & Utecht, L. M. Removal of unwanted facial hair. Ibid.

19.   Shenenberger, D. W., & Utecht, L. M. Removal of unwanted facial hair. Ibid.

20.   Removing Hair Safely. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2010).

21.   Shenenberger, D. W., & Utecht, L. M. Removal of unwanted facial hair. Ibid.

22. Shenenberger, D. W., & Utecht, L. M. (2002). Removal of unwanted facial hair. American family physician. Ibid.

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